Give an experience this year - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

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Give an experience this year

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Mandy Zajac writes and edits arts, entertainment and lifestyle content for the Get Out section of the East Valley Tribune. Contact her at (480) 898-6818 or

Posted: Friday, December 16, 2011 2:00 pm

The only “getting out” many of us will do in the next week will be a flurry of holiday errands: dropping off baked goods to friends and neighbors, standing in line at the post office, attending company parties and scrambling to find gifts for people we have yet to cross off our lists.

When it comes to presents for friends and family, I tend to favor giving an experience over an item. Since most of us live around here, my gift list often winds up reflecting a variety of local things to do. Take a peek:

For Crafty/Artistic Friend or Sister: classes at Art Intersection. From beginner to advanced photography classes, homespun altered-art sessions, writing workshops and “ephemera crawls” through thrift stores to find artful materials, this Gilbert art space offers inspiration and education for creatives. $35 and up. Info: (480) 361-1118 or

For Life-of-the-Party Teenage Brother: Teen Improv Classes at Jester’Z Improv Comedy. The longtime East Valley comedy troupe offers classes for teens in a supportive environment at its Mesa location. Adult sessions are held in Scottsdale. $260. Info: (480) 423-0120 or

For Active/Outdoorsy Mom: Becoming an Outdoorswoman. Women learn to kayak, rappel, read a compass, track animals, fly fish, ride horses, shoot firearms and lots more at this weekend sleep-away camp held three times per year. $250-$375, includes meals and lodging. Info: (480) 644-0077 or

For Science-Geek Dad: Adults Night Out at Arizona Science Center. This hands-on museum is engaging for adults, especially on the first Friday of each month, when no kids are allowed, grown-ups get in free, and there’s a discount on entry to special exhibitions. (“Real Pirates,” for example, is typically $23 per person; on Adults Night Out, you pay $9). Info: (602) 716-2000 or

For Beer-and-Adventure-Loving Husband: Paddle to Pints kayaking and beer-tasting tour from Sedona Adventure Tours — or any of the hiking, tubing or wine-tasting tours the outfitter leads on or near the Verde River. From about $100. Info: (877) 673-3661 or

Of course, sometimes our budgets can’t support our best-designed gift lists. In that case, East Valley park districts can be an affordable resource. They offer scores of classes for adults, in everything from voice lessons and horseback riding to martial arts, cooking and jewelry making. Courses for children are even more varied than that.

And don’t overlook IOUs. Take a friend pedal-boating on Tempe Town Lake, dad fishing at Veterans-Oasis Park in Chandler, or nieces and nephews to Astronomy Night at the Planetarium at Mesa Community College. They’re cheap or free gifts that give again, in the form of great times spent together and good memories made.

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